School Climate & Safety

Broward Invests in Weather Alerts

By Christina A. Samuels — April 25, 2006 1 min read
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The Broward County, Fla., district last week agreed to outfit all of its schools with a specialized weather-notification service that promises to give officials notice within minutes of potential lightning strikes or other hazardous conditions.

The 275,000-student district is partnering with WeatherBug, a Germantown, Md.-based company that has 8,000 weather-tracking stations across the nation, many of them at schools. WeatherBug also has 1,000 weather cameras, generally stationed at schools and public-safety buildings, and says that gives it the largest exclusive weather network in the world.

The system, which costs $155,000 and was approved by the Broward County school board last week, will provide real-time weather information to specially equipped computers at the schools. Annual costs after the first year will be about $102,000.

Each school will also have four Sprint Nextel phones available for staff members. If a weather alert is issued, it can be sent to the phone. That will allow a traveling coach, for example, to get weather alerts for his location, even if he is far away from his home school.

“The state of Florida averages 10 deaths and 40 injuries due to lightning each year, and half occur during recreational activities, and that is tragic,” Jerry Graziose, the safety director for the district, said in a statement.

In October, a 15-year-old Broward high school football player was struck by lightning and killed, and several other students were injured. The game had been called because of the weather, and the student was struck as the team left the field.

Keith Bromery, the spokesman for the district, said Broward had been looking for a reliable weather-monitoring system. The district had used lightning detectors before, but they would go off when no lightning was in the area, or stay silent when thunderstorms were on the way.

The district also liked that the WeatherBug phones will send alerts for hazardous conditions such as high winds or heat.

Mr. Bromery said the district plans to install and train school personnel in using the devices in time for the 2006-07 school year.

Alyce Menton, a spokeswoman for WeatherBug, said eventually the phones will be available to individual consumers. Right now, she said, “we want to get them in the hands of the people who are out there protecting the kids.”

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